Energy Flows As USA Men's U16 Training Camp Opens
With the 2017 USA Basketball Women’s U16 National Team practicing in Sports Center 2, in walked 32 of the nation’s premier 16-and-under men’s basketball athletes for the start of the USA Men’s U16 National Team Training Camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Five players rolled in to the USOTC on Wednesday, before the rest of the group arrived early Thursday afternoon for check-in and medical screenings.
Following orientation, the on-court session ran from 5-7 p.m. and included everything from pivoting and passing sequences to keyhole shooting, one-on-one play and scrimmages, led by USA U16 National Team head coach Don Showalter.
Showalter, who has coached USA U16/U17 national teams to eight-straight gold medals since 2009, is 50-0 all-time as a head coach with USA Basketball, and with a new crop of players, he’s more than excited to build a roster to contend for another gold.
“Every team is different. I’m just excited to see these guys together,” Showalter began. “We’ve added some more players since this past October minicamp. And, they’ve all changed a lot since October – the ones that were here. It’s always fun for me to see what develops and see how we can make them as best a team as we can.”
Showalter has been on the USA sideline in every U16 competition to date (since 2009), coaching notable names such as Bradley Beal (2009), Andre Drummond (2011), Aaron Gordon (2011) and Jabari Parker (2011). Entering his fifth training camp at the U16 level, Showalter understands the test training camp presents to athletes battling for their first opportunity to go abroad with USA Basketball.
“The challenge is them having an understanding they will be outside of their comfort zone, a lot,” said Showalter.
“This is the first time they will be playing against really good players. Everything isn’t going to be as easy for them as it might be with their high school or traveling teams. They have to learn how to handle some adversity and play out of their comfort zones. That’s always a challenge for young kids.”
A total of 26 athletes join training camp with previous USA Basketball experience, all of which stems from the 2016 USA Men's Junior National Team October minicamp.
Six-foot-6 guard Jyare Davis (Sanford School/Newark, Del.) is one returnee from the October minicamp. That experience, he noted, should be helpful this weekend, now that he has the chance to compete for a roster spot.
“I think it’s really important,” Davis said. “I’ve been in the gym. I know my way around. Through talking with older players last October, I know what the coaches are looking for when you’re here.
“It’s going to be highly competitive. Now, I just have to go out there and try my best, and play as hard as I can.”
Another member back from this past October minicamp is Jeremy Roach (Paul VI Catholic H.S./Fairfax, Va.), who was a late addition to the training camp roster, noted not only the altitude, but having a feel for the FIBA basketball should be helpful heading into the weekend.
“It’s exciting. I’m happy they selected me and think I’m the right guy to compete for a spot,” Roach said.
“We’re all here to compete and to have fun. We all want a spot on this team. Everybody is good, and you have to compete on every single possession out here.”
The intensity of training camp will be all but familiar to Jalen Suggs (Minnehaha Academy H.S./St. Paul, Minn.), who is wearing the USA colors for the first time.
“The competitive level is going to be very high from everyone, just because we all want that spot in the final 12," said Suggs. "I'm looking forward to playing for the coaches. Everybody out here is here to help us."
Suggs mentioned he knows "most" of his fellow training camp participants, and he’s looking forward to getting to know more through the action-packed weekend.
“It’s fun. We're cracking jokes when we talk, but when we come to the gym, it's all work. Then, we go back to being best friends and hanging out. It's a pretty good time all-around," Suggs added.
Practice sessions continue June 2 and June 3, at 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. and 4:30-7 p.m. each day, with finalists for the team expected to be announced the evening of June 3.
Selected athletes will remain in Colorado Springs and will train twice a day through June 9.
The 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship will be held June 14-18 in Formosa, Argentina, and the top four finishing teams, not including Argentina, who automatically qualifies as the U17 host country, will qualify for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup for Men.